BERLIN – GOP candidate Steve Baleshiski dropped out of the District 30 state House of Representatives race on Thursday night following public backlash to controversial posts on Baleshiski’s Facebook page. He was challenging Democratic House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz for the seat.
In a statement from Baleshiski sent by Stpehen C. Kalkowski, chairman of the Southington Republican Town Committee, the 22-year-old Tunxis Community College student from Southington said:
“I entered politics because of my deep concern about the direction of our great state and country. In my anguish and anger regarding several highly charged politically divided topics facing our state and our nation, I have used strong and inappropriate language. To those who were hurt by my harsh words, I want to say that I am truly sorry.
“I have learned a great deal from this experience and I will no longer speak in a way that hurts or offends people. That was never my intention and I do not want these brash comments to define me as a person. I regret the pain that I have caused by my words.
“I alone am responsible for my mistakes and not my party or the fine people who have supported me. I have decided to resign my candidacy effective immediately for the 30th District House of Representatives.”
In a joint statement sent by email, Kalkowski and Anne Reilly, chairman of the Berlin Republican Town Committees, respectively, told The Herald that Baleshiski’s withdrawal was effective immediately.
“We had given Mr. Baleshiski time to reflect on his use of extremely inappropriate language regarding several highly charged politically divided topics facing our state and nation, as well as to confer with his family and friends regarding his decision,” the statement read. “The Southington and Berlin Republican Town Committees do not, and will never, condone this hurtful and dividing behavior and therefore, we had withdrawn our endorsement of Mr. Baleshiski prior to his resignation.
“Our mission continues to be to fight for the State of Connecticut and to elect Republicans so that Connecticut can prosper through strong fiscal responsibility.”
The 30th District covers most of Berlin and parts of Southington.
Kalkowski said Friday morning “we have at least one potential candidate that we are lining up” to run in place of Baleshiski and “we will know shortly.”
According to Gabe Rosenberg, communications director of the Secretary of the State Office, Baleshiski’s name will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, since he withdrew before the deadline. Rosenberg’s office received Baleshiski’s withdrawal notice Thursday. The deadline was Friday.
A candidate can replace him on the ballot up to 21 days before the election, or Oct. 16, Rosenberg added.
Baleshiski had $22,120.80 in campaign funds remaining, according to his Oct. 10 campaign finance filing with the State Elections Enforcement Commission.
Since Baleshiski received $28,150 from the state as part of the Citizens’ Election Program, all campaign funds must be returned to the state, SEEC attorney and spokesperson Joshua Foley said, even if they came from private donations.
The funds cannot be transferred to another candidate, and if Baleshiski didn’t receive state funds he would have more options of what to with his money, like donate it to charity, Foley added.
Aresimowicz had $28,057.08 in campaign funds according to his Oct. 10 filing.
A rally was held Thursday night condemning the “hatred” in Baleshiski’s personal Facebook posts after the posts were disclosed by The Herald last week. The Connecticut Education Association condemned the “hate” speech and a Berlin elected official called for Baleshiski’s withdrawal following the disclosure of the posts.
The Facebook posts made by Baleshiski said a student survivor of the Parkland school shooting in Florida could “burn in hell.” Another post said Muslims embrace “worshiping the devil.” In another, he identified himself as a white male while calling African-American U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters “dumb.”
Baleshiski told The Herald that he didn’t like people who use tragedies to take away rights from Americans, that he is a devout Christian and doesn’t want to be led astray, and that he wanted to dispel the notion that all supporters of President Donald Trump are racist.
Minutes before the Thursday rally’s start, Rachel Rochette, a former mayor and councilor in Berlin, shared with The Herald what she showed were tweets by Baleshiski of a similar nature to the Facebook posts, made earlier this month.
Political signs for all political parties and races on a stretch of land in front of the Mobil gas station on Chamberlain Highway were taken down the same day The Herald disclosed the post by Baleshiski. John O’Brien, who put up signs saying Baleshiski was a racist, radical and bigot, said the signs were ordered to be removed by Republican Mayor Mark Kaczynski. Kaczynski said the signs were removed because they were on a DOT right of way, which doesn’t allow any type of sign on such lands.
“Ultimately he did the right thing to step down,” said Aresimowicz, adding he hopes Baleshiski bears in mind as he grows through life like people do that hate speech is not productive.
The language of the posts had no place in a political campaign, he added, and whoever will be nominated in place of Baleshiski will be at a disadvantage because the election is only a few weeks away.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.